chicago personal injury lawyers

Chicago Car Accident Lawyers Warn: Don’t Let Kids Take Summer Vacation From Seat Belts

June 14, 2017

Summer is here, which means road trips to amusement parks, zoos, camps, and the list goes on.

But when kids are along for the ride, it’s imperative they each have size-appropriate restraints that are in good working condition. If your child will be riding with someone else, make sure there are enough car seats, booster seats, and seat belts. If necessary, install your child’s own seat in the other driver’s vehicle.

Kids Must be Buckled

There are memes that circulate on social media, waxing nostalgic about how kids used to pile up in the back of station wagons for long road trips, and “…no one was worried about wearing seat belts.” Here’s what those pictures fail to mention: In 1977, there were 1,405 children under 13 who died as passenger vehicle occupants in car accidents. That’s according to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation. In 2014, that number had been slashed to 604 – a 57 percent decrease. That’s not coincidence. In fact, the number was still pretty high well into mid-aughts, reaching 1,013 in 2006.

In that time, vehicles have gotten safer. There is increased awareness about the importance of children being properly buckled into safety restraints that fit and are up to current safety standards. Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children use a booster seat up to potentially age 12 (or until they reach 4 feet 9 inches), and that all children under 13 ride in the back seat. These are recommendations founded on an increased understanding of child safety in motor vehicles after many decades of intense study by government agencies, scholars, and safety advocates.

625 ILCS 25, also known as the Child Passenger Protection Act, holds that every person when transporting a child under 16 is responsible for ensuring that child is properly buckled in an appropriate car seat or seat belt. Although a first-time violation is only a $75 fine, the potential consequences of not doing so could be far worse in the event of a Chicago car accident, as our injury attorneys have seen time and again.

Summer Road Trip Safety for Kids

Summer is an especially dangerous time for kids. The DOT reports that 41 percent of child car accident deaths occur in the months of May, June, July, and August. The summer monthly average of child traffic accident deaths is disproportionate to the rest of the year.

We mention all this not to scare people, but to highlight the very real dangers and encourage parents and caregivers to be proactive, especially if you head out on any road trips this summer.

The AAP recommends:

  • Infants and toddlers under 2 – Always ride in a rear-facing seat until they are at least 2 or until they reach the highest weight/height allowable by the car seat manufacturer. (This information is usually available on the side of the seat, or else on the manufacturer’s website.)
  • Toddlers and preschoolers – Those who have outgrown the rear-facing seats should use a forward-facing seat with a harness for as long as manufacturers’ allow.
  • School-age children – Booster seats with a belt-positioner should be used until the seat belt fits properly, usually once the child has reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and is between the ages of 8 and 12.
  • Older children – Children old and large enough for seat belts should make sure they use lap and shoulder belts for the best protection.

Children under 13 should always ride in the back seat, as the front passenger airbag could cause serious injury if it deploys on a child. Front passenger protection features were designed for grown adults, not children.

If your child has been injured in a car accident in Chicago, we can help you explore your legal options.